After the sun had set on Washington, D.C., on the notable combination of Friday the 13th and Valentine’s Day eve, the FCC released a Report and Order and Sua Sponte Order on Reconsideration, implementing the DTV Delay Act signed by the President two days ago.
The most notable immediate action is that full power TV stations which have previously notified the FCC that they will shut down analog operations on February 17 but now wish to remain on the air mind must notify the FCC by e-mail of their change of heart by 6 p.m. on Sunday, February 15. Notifications must be made by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the phrase “Withdrawal of Termination Notification” in the subject line.
Meanwhile, if you were trying to find a Valentine for your lover before the stores closed Friday evening, shame on you for procrastinating; but it is time to listen up for what is “in” and what is “out” this weekend in the DTV world.
The FCC had previously declared that all full power TV analog licenses would expire on February 17. Not any more. As of this evening, all full power TV analog licenses officially expire at 11:59:59 p.m. local time on June 12.
Read on — there’s more.
For those stations whose post-transition digital facilities will differ from their pre-transition facilities, the authority to operate those post-transition facilities is now not valid until “12:00 a.m.” on June 13. (Note that the term “12:00 a.m.” is something of an ambiguity, but we presume it means 12:00:01 a.m. on June 13.) Stations that believe they can use their post-transition facilities prior to June 13 without causing interference must request special temporary authority (STA) and make an engineering showing, with an electronic filing through the FCC’s CDBS system. These stations may not commence authority with post-transition facilities until an STA has been granted.
Stations that (a) notified the FCC of their intent to shut down analog operation February 17 but (b) were listed on the FCC’s February 11 public notice as not being permitted to shut down may now not terminate analog service until June 12 unless (1) they made certain certifications to the FCC by 6:00 p.m. Eastern time on February 13 (i.e., about 15 minutes before the FCC’s order was released) regarding the availability of analog service and DTV educational information, in which case the right to shut down on February 17 is automatic, or (2) they filed a hardship showing based on unavoidable loss of analog site or extreme economic hardship and have received FCC approval before they shut down analog service. The FCC’s Media Bureau will have delegated authority to act on hardship requests.
Later in the evening on February 13 (the Commission’s staff was obviously busy), the FCC said that it had received responses from all 106 stations on the February 11 list, and it kept its own night lights burning to compile those responses. An even half filed the required certifications and may pull their analog switch on the 17. Forty-three stations said they will continue analog operation. That leaves ten stations which pleaded hardship. The FCC will review their showings and will let them know their fate “prior to February 17th.”
Finally, the FCC has relented from its requirement that stations maintaining “Nightlight” analog service after February 17 (i.e., analog service solely for emergency messages and DTV educational information) broadcast all such information in both English and Spanish. Since DTV educational information in both languages is available from at least the National Association of Broadcasters, if not elsewhere, educational information must still be broadcast in both languages. However, stations without translation capability will not be required to broadcast emergency information in Spanish, although they are encouraged to do so. Emergency information must still be visibly displayed for viewers with impaired hearing.
For those nigglers who may be concerned about the FCC’s legal authority to impose filing requirements and change its rules seven days a week without the usual advance notice and opportunity to comment, the FCC has declared that the Administrative Procedure Act’s rules of the road do not apply here. In the FCC’s view, the DTV Delay Act instructed the FCC to get a move on it, “[n]otwithstanding any other provision of law.” So the night lights are burning at the FCC, as TV stations prepare for their own Nightlight operation; and sweethearts anticipating their Valentines tonight or tomorrow morning may have to cool their heels for a bit.